President Obama said Thursday that 6 million people have enrolled in health exchanges, putting the administration over its revised goal with four days to spare before the deadline.
Mr. Obama, traveling in Italy, made the announcement on a conference call with thousands of health care "navigators" and volunteers who are helping people enroll.
But back in the U.S., Republicans said the enrollment number covers those who signed up for Obamacare plans, but it doesn't say how many people have actually begun to pay — which they said is the real measure of coverage and a number that officials have said they are not tracking.
Still, the enrollment numbers mean 1 million people signed up for plans over the last 10 days, bringing the total for the last 30 days to 2 million.
Top Democrats said that showed momentum ahead of Monday's deadline to sign up for private coverage on the federal HealthCare.gov portal or one of 15 state-based health exchanges.
"As enrollments surge past six million Americans — even with four days left before the deadline — we are seeing millions more still looking to sign up and get covered," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. "For these Americans, for these workers and middle class families, the Affordable Care Act is upholding its promise to make health care a right, not a privilege, for all."
The Congressional Budget Office initially projected there would be 7 million enrollees in private coverage during the health care law's inaugural enrollment period from Oct. 1 to March 31, and that became the accepted target. However, after the botched rollout last year, the administration disavowed the 7 million mark, and the CBO in its latest projections predicted 6 million people would enroll.
The administration had to stretch deadlines to reach the goal, including delaying an initial Feb. 15 deadline for gaining coverage.
And this week, the administration went further, saying that people who are "in line" by the deadline can still self-attest that they started the process by March 31 and would like to finish up in early April.
It is unclear how many people may benefit from the allowance, how long people will have to complete the process, or whether there are consequences for those who lie about when they entered the system.
Republican lawmakers lambasted the move as just the latest tweak to a law they see as fundamentally flawed. They've also pressed the administration for numbers on how many people are paying for their new insurance.
Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to demand data on how many people have paid their first month's premium for insurance they obtained through Obamacare.
Mrs. Sebelius recently testified she did not have that number.
"New evidence obtained by the Committee strongly suggests that is not an accurate answer," wrote Mr. Camp and Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on health. "In fact, there is specific information about who has paid their premium that CMS is collecting and using to make payments to insurers As you know, the term 'effectuated enrollment' means that an individual has paid a premium."
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